Is it a boy or a girl?

LBGTQ – it’s hard to remember what each initial stands for but they add up to a cultural change which claims that gender is a matter of choice. The choice is not necessarily permanent: one may simply change it as perceived or required. I read recently of a policewo/man who it was reported could change gender day by day. The Church is unsurprisingly unhappy about all this: “Make and female he created them.” And while it insists that respect should be given in all cases, history tells us that severe persecution was once the condign answer. Other denominations, Christian or otherwise, take even stronger views. In some communities homosexual activity is a capital offence.

It has been going on for a long time. Recently I spent an afternoon with an old friend. I recall him as a cuddly five year old girl who used to leap up and hug me whenever we met, usually outside church after Mass. Now he is large, strong, and be-bristled; if he cuddled me now he might squeeze me to death by mistake – and a charming and kinder man it would be hard to meet.

We instinctively identify gender through the obvious characteristics of biology. Easy-peasy. In more difficult cases a list of comparative characteristics would, in the old days, be used for a final decision. Now it may simply be claiming so. Having said that, we should remember that in some instances the situation can be complicated. Children who have routinely been assigned gender at birth do sometimes develop psychological and physical characteristics consistent with the opposite gender, or somewhere in between. The proper diagnosis and treatment of such children, both parental and professional, is essential to help the child to cope with the situation and to develop into a confident adult according to their choice.

But the apparent ability to choose or change one’s own gender appears to run counter to what we have assumed to be permanent differences between the sexes, which have come about through evolution to ensure that the reproduction of our species can continue. The female would need to seek mating but would have built-in concern that the right mate was accepted. She would be open to sexual approaches but would only respond to males who would apparently make good fathers: capacity to provide, which might well include power, stability and care. Such qualities would maximise the chances of the children. It is significant that women tend to be most open to sexual advances when they are ovulating.

The male would ideally spread his seed as widely as possible. Maximum fertilisations is the goal. “Men only want one thing” say many women. And that’s true, and they should welcome the wide choice they get as a result of men being made that way. But he is especially drawn to the attractive because symmetry tends towards health. The ratio between waist and hips plus good breasts all indicate good physical mothers – although this may not be the man’s immediate consideration.

But the situation is changing. We now know how to separate sexual engagement from conception. Formerly the two were a function of each other but, over a few decades, we have separated sex for the sake of reproduction and sex for the sake of sex. It is a revolution. It is not my purpose here to argue a moral case on either side but just to note that something at the heart of the human race has changed. And all change has consequences. We might in our discussion try to tease out what these consequences, good or bad, may be.

People of my older generation find the new thinking very odd to understand. It is taken for granted that sexual intercourse is an appropriate expression of relationship – whether the relationship is recent or of longstanding. No doubt two people who are not averse to each other use it as a form of recreation just as we might invite someone for a meal. Marriage has by no means disappeared and for many it is seen as the right relationship for reproduction. But although it is much more stable than living together without marriage, it has a high breakdown rate. And of course gender is no longer a factor. If you feel heterosexual today and homosexual tomorrow, take your pick. Follow your feelings for there are no rules.

We have seen great changes in our lifetime – from nuclear weapons to a digital universe. But make no mistake the sexual revolution will prove the greatest of all. Hold on to the roundabout, it’s going to be quite a ride.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in evolution, Moral judgment and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Is it a boy or a girl?

  1. Brian Hamill says:

    The physical and psychological profiles of both men and women are, in general, given and obvious. It is when the distinction become blurred for any number of reasons that the moralists seem to want to wade in and make sweeping judgements based on ‘the norm’. But ‘the norm’ is part of our human system of logical order which has a greater or lesser relationship with full reality there in front of us. Perhaps a little more humility before the glory of God’s diversity in creation might be more apposite when approaching or dealing with the complexity of these given situations.

  2. tim says:

    In humans, sex is determined by chromosomes inherited from parents. Each person has chromosomes in every cell of the body. In the vast majority of cases, these are in pairs: either XX or XY. If you have the former pairing, you are female – if the latter pairing, male. There are other possibilities, but they are rare (eg, less that 3 per thousand births). So (in nearly all cases) sex is determined at conception. It is not something that can be changed by drugs or surgery. Maybe sex is different from gender? If people want to behave as if they were of the opposite sex, then -for most purpose – they can and should be accommodated. But legal recognition (as the government has proposed) is more tricky,

  3. galerimo says:

    Your email was very dramatic Quentin. I was sure, by your tone, you were going to offer us something on North Korea or Charlottesville. “Is it a boy or a girl” took the wind right out of my sails.

    You say, “Something at the heart of human nature has changed”. And teasing out the consequences is not easy. Brendan is right to caution humility – I take that to heart. I find myself going almost instinctively to moralising.

    Trying to tease out the consequences of LGBTQ, LBGTQ, or LGBTQIA, on the positive side I would offer than anything which frees up strictly binary only categories of gender has to have a liberating consequence for human beings. We obviously don’t all fit or don’t all want to fit the male/female divide.

  4. John Thomas says:

    “But the situation is changing” – I think it would be more accurate to say that ‘the situation HAS BEEN changed’, by people determined to undermine traditional ideas/values. It is naive to think (as many do) that these changes (yes, Quentin, enormous changes) have come about by some necessary, inevitable, undirected process, that was happening anyway.
    My own first experience of knowing a person moving male > female was as long ago as 1973 – pretty rare then; then again, about 20 years’ later. What I didn’t know in 1973, and 1993, is that it’s not just one’s genitalia that matters: apparently, every cell in the body is, and remains, ‘male’ or female, and THAT is something which no government (or even the BBC!) can change.
    The idea that ‘gender’ is – as for the policeperson – a matter of how one is feeling today, rather than biological (objective) fact, is an assault on reason – and reason was what science, and the West, was built on. It comes down to the assault on reason (and God, obviously, as you hint).

  5. Hock says:

    This ‘revolution’ was bound to happen once homosexual acts were legalised. This was the first push at the door and it has now swung so wide that any sense of control has long since disappeared and any talk of controlling it brings down bitter invective on the person making it.
    It has become fashionable to ‘change’ sex ( an impossibility, but its dangerous to say so.) We are now brain washing children of tender years into a quagmire of supposedly wanting to be the opposite of what they were born but if left alone they would never have heard of such a thing and hence never contemplated it.
    Acceptance of all this perversion is the green light to carry on and the more outrageous it seems the better. Any attempt to redress the balance is becoming a criminal offence however for those like me who look with horror at what is being done in many spheres of sexuality can take some heart from the stand that many took who are volunteers with the National Trust and evidently resigned in their hundreds at the ‘order’ from on high that they must wear a rainbow badge of some description when facing the public and the Trust had to rescind the order.

  6. Brendan says:

    Since the 60’s …all taboos have been increasing wiped out by a loss of the sense of God in the West and therefore moral constraints….voyeurism now gives way to unbridled experimentation in all areas of human sexuality. A kind of fusion/confusion of a free-for-all sexual ‘Tower of Babel ‘. God help us !

  7. Peter Foster says:

    .The sexual revolution may result from the removal of the constraints of medieval religious and social structures and the related near famine economies, by the power given to individuals by the industrial and medical revolutions. In which case we need to search for the right way through the historical debris rather than chuck everything overboard. The plight of children in the new order is an explicit indication having taken a wrong direction.

    However, an alternative view can be speculated.
    In the new view of biology, living organisms operate at multiple levels of complexity by means of molecular, cellular and organismal networks each with their own purposes. The organism constrains its chemistry, including its genes, to serve the organism as a whole and CRUCIALLY in its interaction with its environment. Mechanistic views of evolution by the mutation of genes in which there is no theory of canditature for evolution are relegated to a part act.
    [Dance to The Tune of Life; Biological Relativity by Denis Noble. Cambridge University Press, 2017]
    My speculation is that the human race has run out of control and is destroying the living world by habitat incursion and also itself. Famine and pestilence may reassert their former controlling mechanisms, but the mechanism of reducing fertility by sexual confusion may have kicked in.

  8. Iona says:

    From a practical point of view, it is worrying that:

    (a) people who are biologically men can declare themselves female, and use changing rooms and toilet facilities reserved for women. Thus “peeping Toms” can readily obtain cover for their desired activities. If the circumstances suit them, so can would-be rapists.

    (b) someone can grow up and mature as a man, “change” gender, and be able to compete with women in sport. This has already happened in the USA, though possibly only at a local level. The ex-man won the race, of course, beating all the “real” women. Whether this will be permitted at international level remains to be seen.

    • tim says:

      There are other difficulties of a similar sort – which would need resolving if the proposal to allow people to change sex at will were to be taken seriously. For example, the BBC is in trouble because it pays top male presenters more than females. It has been suggested that it could solve its problem by persuading some of the men to change sex (perhaps in return for further increases in salary?) – also then they could retire 5 years earlier.

  9. Geordie says:

    What are our Church leaders doing or saying about this? What guidance are they giving society after listening to the Holy Spirit through prayerful consideration? Nothing much so far. Let’s hope they accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance soon and save this generation from catastrophe.

  10. Martha says:

    There has always been a small percentage of unfortunate people with sexual identity problems, and I am wondering if there has been an increase recently caused by the pollution of our environment? There have been reports for many years of fish in American lakes being deformed due to the disposal of toxic waste from industrial plants in the plastics industry. However, it is still a very small minority, and to offer gender as a choice to all is quite incomprehensible. Apart from any other considerations, how can our overstretched NHS doctors and nurses do all the work involved, including counselling, when they cannot even cope with the numbers of people needing normal medical and psychiatric help? As for using our limited resources to enable a man to give birth . . .

    • John Thomas says:

      “I am wondering if there has been an increase recently caused by the pollution of our environment”- No, Martha, the increase has been caused by very skillful propaganda from powerful, well-resourced people, who are in the ‘right’ places (eg. media, government). I’m in no doubt that they would LIKE you to think this is a ‘natural’ process …

  11. ignatius says:

    I keep company with transgender people quite often as part of my chaplaincy role and to be honest I can’t really see thousands flocking for the operations or the hormones. Personally speaking with all that is entailed I quite admire those whose conviction about their identity is so strong that they do change sex. I don’t especially see this as a moral issue as much as one of biochemistry. It shouldn’t be that difficult to understand that the hormonal axis is bound to throw up inconsistencies from time to time or that these people should be carefully vetted then helped if of course help is at hand.

  12. Brendan says:

    Ignatius – I would agree that a transgender change by someone with a ‘ mature ‘ outlook, having gone through the trials and tribulations of a life he/she considered as a ‘different ‘ person, may be the better course. However, our society is now prepared to consider children/adolescents , hardly in the category of ‘ mature individuals ‘ , as now empowered psychologically/physically to ‘ know their own minds ‘ on such a complex and intensely personal subject.
    Driving this grave error of judgement are powerful lobby groups such as LGBT and their associates ( those in politics and the media ) hell-bent on ‘ politicising ‘ this state of affairs linked to their God…absolute equality. As a Christian ( and politics aside ) , natural law would bring me to reason that there is no such thing as ‘ absolute equality .’ Therefore, there can be no equality concerning the psycho-sexual relationship between a person oriented to lesbian/homosexuality …” the psycho-genesis of which is unknown ”- Cat. of Cath. Faith….and a heterosexual person, the societal norm. BOTH however are children of God – the difference in sexual orientation does no negate that of BOTH having equality before God.
    Not surprisingly and depressingly ; giving the liberalising effects of moral relativism ( through loss of religious moral parameters ) , the general public are rushed headlong into falling for this deceit under the great banner-headline of ‘ personal choice ‘ sold as a ‘ absolute right.
    I, unashamedly cling to The Holy Spirit and the ‘ Rock of Ages ‘ who links me to the sure foundations of Christs Church , rather than the ‘ zeitgeist ‘ of our ( or any ) passing age.

    • Quentin says:

      Brendan, you are right to say that a young child is not able to make a mature decision about gender. But you also have to take into account that very young children, too young to know anything about it, can have consistent predilections contrary to their sex. This requires very careful parental decisions, preferably with professional help.

      The September issue of Scientific American “Special Issue: Sex and Gender” is comprehensive. It’s certainly a complex subject about which even science needs to know a great deal more. Incidentally it gives us an important verbal distinction: ‘sex’ refers to biological traits; ‘gender’ to social identity. So sex is binary: male or female. Gender is much broader and can contain a range of elements, many of which are not binary but a matter of degree.

      • tim says:

        What is to go in a passport – sex or gender (or both – or neither)?

      • tim says:

        Quentin, you’ve read the article and I haven’t. I don’t know facts or figures, but it is entirely plausible that some young children may have ‘predilections contrary to their sex’ (assuming that there are such things, which some might deny). But to encourage such children to think of themselves as having a gender that didn’t match their sex would in my view be prima facie grossly irresponsible.

      • Quentin says:

        My, non-expert, view would be to advise the parent to accept whatever predilections appear without comment. Perhaps they grow stronger, perhaps they change with age. But I am sure that long term parental disapproval, directly or indirectly, is damaging. At an early and plastic age our parents are the main channel through which we learn what sort of people we are.

  13. Brendan says:

    Yes Quentin – with me you are pushing at an open door. A complex subject needs subtle nuances the better to bring out ‘ understanding ‘ by us all. In trying to bring balance to my piece, I was attempting to emphasise certain organisations and individuals whose primary aim seems to ‘ politicise ‘ sexual orientation for their own ‘ agenda ‘ thus ignoring this complexity within sexual ‘struggle ‘- which we all have – thus raising obfuscation where clarity should prevail if possible, when given a chance.
    Sadly our politics arena is riven with classic ploys to hide truth in the matter of difficult social subjects. i.e. in the field of race, colour or human sexuality.

  14. ignatius says:

    There is, of course, a big difference between a subject when approached from a pragmatic or an ideological perspective. I think one really has to’ know’ and to genuinely ‘see’ the person in the situation and not view them through the haze of ideological/political ‘principle’

    This is a great danger for religious folk too since religion will, by its very nature, abstract, theorise and legalise; but what is needed is the concrete manifestation of mercy. This was the point of today’s gospel reading concerning the Caananite woman in Matthew 15.

  15. Brendan says:

    Ignatius is right of course ( giving us the benefit of his chaplaincy work ) ; that one can just as easily find oneself hidebound by ‘ religious polarisation ‘ as well as the more secular and pervasive ( in our times ) ‘ political polarisation .’
    I have just scouted out a Catholic viewpoint – as one does – on the issue of gender dysphoria ( gender incongruence/transgenderism ) , our N.H.S. term; which is dealt with by two respected Catholic institutions :- The Anscombe Bioethics Centre ( U.K. ) and The National Catholic Bioethics Centre ( Philadelphia ). …. Just by ‘ googleing ‘ …” Sex and gender, a Catholic perspective.”
    I haven’t had time to absorb all its findings , but hope those who wish to use them will find the issues raised pertinent to this discussion.

  16. Hock says:

    There is something evil that is getting us to this point where scientific gobbledygook has us all looking in the mirror as we try and define sexuality into ‘anything goes’ and an army of experts attach rational explanations that are anything but rational and lead to confusion with everything and everybody.
    Words that did not even exist only a few short years ago are now bandied about as though those uttering them are the founts of all knowledge and those who cry ‘help’ in the face of all this high sounding nonsense are ignorant bigots.
    Its as though we are being asked to believe some hidden truths that should have been evident centuries ago but were hidden from the masses by some mysterious conspiracy.
    Genesis spells it out for us in plain language. Male and female he created them, in his own image. Jesus repeated it in plain language when it comes to marriage.

    • Vincent says:

      “Genesis spells it out for us in plain language. Male and female he created them, in his own image. Jesus repeated it in plain language when it comes to marriage.” Well of course he did because this was nature’s normal way to bring about and increase the human race. But that does not exclude the inevitability of exceptions through irregular genes and hormones. Surely we must understand Scripture in the context of the time. Ironically Jesus himself was the outcome of a mutation since he received no Y chromosome from a human father.

  17. Geordie says:

    Well said Hock. I am sick and tired of scientific gobbledygook.

  18. Horace says:

    Asa rather simple minded individual I was pleased to note the following comment in ‘CHURCH MILITANT’ :- ” …. enshrining of mental illnesses as constitutional rights like homosexuality, transgenderism” etc.

    • ignatius says:

      Horace,
      I don’t think the World Health Organisation classify homosexuality as a mental illness these days, and in the coming 2018 ICD they are about to declassify transgender identity too.

  19. ignatius says:

    “Genesis spells it out for us in plain language. Male and female he created them, in his own image. Jesus repeated it in plain language when it comes to marriage.”

    Again, I think you all miss the point rather, these are your fellow human beings, they are not dogma’s or ideologies. They would have been around in Jesus time too…for all you know he might have met one or two and not condemned them for their dilemma.

    • Martha says:

      Ignatius, Yes, they must be treated with respect and helped as far as possible, but they are very few, and should not be presented as a possible life style choice for all, which the BBC seems to be doing at every opportunity, Woman’s Hour yesterday for instance.

  20. ignatius says:

    Hi Martha,
    Yes I completely agree with that although I didn’t listen to Woman’s Hour. I also understand that most of the comments on here are aimed at the ‘lobbyists’.
    I remember well during my University days 40 years ago when bisexuality was being lauded as somehow trendy, liberal-socialist in fact. But to be genuinely trans-sexual is something rather more challenging and as such will hopefully, in actual fact, remain very rarified.

  21. galerimo says:

    Not long ago we had a discussion about identity. And some old Greek guy got to replace all the planks on his boat. I think it was still his boat.

    The use of camoflage is quite a legitimate way of surviving in our animal world – avoiding attack and pain. I think gender identity is also a legitimate survival technique for some people. Others will never know who they truly are.

    I can’t see how having XX or XY chromosomes says anything more than a person has either set of chromosomes. Some people have blue eyes and some brown.

    Saint Pope John Paul II entitles his book on the theology of the body, “Man and Woman, He Created Them”.

    Is there nothing of the feminine in men, or the masculine in women?
    And if there possibly is then I wonder if a person can then lay claim to that which they identify as their truth.

    I think I can get things back to front if I want society to be ordered correctly so that my children are not confused in their education.

    This is as sectarian an issue as you can get.

    So “Is it a boy or a girl?”, in my opinion, truly warrants the answer “Yes”.

    • Ignatius says:

      What was it the man said? Something along the lines of:
      “Neither Jew nor Greek , male nor female,freeman or slave, all are one in Christ Jesus…”

      You are right about sectarianism. This is a complex question but here you have the heart of it.

  22. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    I posted a contribution on this which was on the button with regards to the relation with trans- genders and Globalist agenda. Too much truth for the blog was it, as I see you have deleted it.
    Perhaps it was deleted because the Pope and the vatican are one of the prime movers and shakers on the present evil of Globalism?

    • Quentin says:

      I haven’t deleted anything. It may be that the automatic filters picked up something mistakenly.

    • tim says:

      Nektarios, if Quentin did delete your post (and until he confirms that this is what happened, I shall assume it more likely that there was some kind of technical failure) he was within his rights. It’s his blog. There is not enough control of what is said on blogs. Personally I’d like to hear more about the globalist message you feel the Pope is spreading, if soberly expressed, but I’m not sure it’s on-topic.

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